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The Irrepressible Hope of a New Year

The headlines have been unrelentingly gloomy in 2008 except for November 4, the day of national euphoria when Barack Obama became President-elect. Seven weeks after the election, and almost three weeks before the inauguration, conversations still brighten up when his name is mentioned. It seems everyone is going to the inauguration—either in body or in spirit. But it is hard to avoid the reality that 2008 has been an unusually difficult year. The news is so overwhelmingly dark; the continued record home foreclosures, record stock market declines since the Great Depression, record loss of consumer confidence, and that’s only a partial list. Add to that the huge bailouts, war rumblings between Pakistan and India, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, renewed outbreak of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis, an increasingly threatening Russia, a belligerent Iran, dreadful suffering in Zimbabwe, and new killings in Congo. When friends and strangers greet each other this final day of the year, we optimistically say, “Happy New Year.” This year, we can’t wait for the New Year to start and the old year to retire. We may have wildly unrealistic expectations for the New Year, expecting President Obama to solve all of our problems in short order. We know those are impossible expectations, but there is something about the start of a New Year which, despite our realistic view of the world, cannot suppress hope. That’s why one million people crowd into Times Square, that’s why people kiss each other when the clock strikes twelve. For that one brief moment that marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we allow ourselves to believe that the New Year will be better. Yes, it will. Yes, we can. The New Year may not provide those who have lost their homes to foreclosure find a new roof over their heads, or those who have lost retirement funds achieve new financial security, but it may provide some optimism that their situation can improve. And for some, hard times have forced people to focus less on security and material comfort and more on the small things that matter. For some it is time spent with family and friends over a cup of soup, for others it might be helping someone who is worse off than they are, and for others it is a walk down a busy street, enjoying the tempo, the signs, the people. Living in Vermont, I turned to Robert Frost to find joy in simply being alive. Here is a poem I will share with you. Dust of Snow The way a crow shook down on me The dust of snow From a hemlock tree Has given my heart A change of mood And saved some part Of a Day I had rued. Happy New Year, everyone!

Tourist Eyes

For two weeks my husband and I traveled to London, Paris, Zurich and Bern—familiar haunts where one can drink water from the tap. Read More..

Gays in the Military

We’ve come a long way in the sixteen years since the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” was adopted to deal with the question of gay and lesbian members of the military.

This time, advocacy for repeal did not come from any outside group; it came from the apex of the military establishment itself. Read More..

The Supreme Court and Corporate Electioneering

The Supreme Court decision which will allow unfettered campaign contributions from corporations and unions poses a threat to the very workings of our democracy.

Read More..

In the Wake of Massachusetts

A political earthquake hit Massachusetts last night. The tectonic plates of the Democratic Party shifted with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the United States Senate and left untold amounts of debris in its wake. Read More..

Greeting the New Year

This time of year we automatically say "Happy New Year" to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, days after the champagne corks have popped and the fireworks are but a memory. It has become a standard greeting for the first days of January, partly to cheer ourselves up so we can face the rest of the winter. Read More..